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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/14

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/14

CA, NV, OR, WA: COVID-19 vaccine clears key hurdle in California and much of the West

latimes.com

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech cleared another hurdle on Sunday, when a working group of scientists and experts representing California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington endorsed its safety.  

SC: With bigger GOP majority, South Carolina legislature to again consider fetal heartbeat bill

thestate.com

South Carolina Republicans have filed three bills that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected by an ultrasound at around the six-week mark.

NY: New York governor shifts focus to hospital capacity

nytimes.com

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said hospital capacity, not positive coronavirus tests, would now be the primary driver of state action to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The shift is likely to delay by weeks a potential return of the most stringent restrictions from earlier in the year.

NM: New Mexico jobless to get state stimulus pay

santafenewmexican.com

As many as 130,000 New Mexicans collecting unemployment benefits will see an extra $1,200  in their payments during the week starting Monday. It's part of a $330 million relief package the state legislature passed in November and comes from federal CARES Act funds.

MS: Mississippi governor's Christmas party ignores COVID-19 rules

sunherald.com

At a Christmas party last week, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves failed to follow the public health guidelines he set for Mississippians earlier the same day. Photos showed people chatting on the grounds of the governor's mansion without masks and in close proximity.

IN: Indiana public hospital CEOs conceal their salaries 

indystar.com

Public employees typically must disclose their taxpayer-funded salaries, but county hospital executives across Indiana are hiding behind a rare exemption added to state law in 2016. As county hospitals bought up more than 90% of Indiana’s nursing homes, state officials granted them secrecy provisions that allowed them to hide how the money is spent. 

WI: Wisconsin GOP lawmakers withhold funds to counties for recount

jsonline.com

President Donald Trump's campaign paid $3 million for recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties, Wisconsin's two most Democratic areas. But two top Republican lawmakers said Friday they were withholding the money from the counties for now. They did not explain why. 

KS: Two elected Kansas officials were awarded a total of $495,200 from the CARES Act. Did they need it?

kansas.com

Michael Capps, a Kansas state legislator, and James Clendenin, a Wichita City Council member—both Republicans—appear to have submitted false information to get federal money for their company.

NV: Nevada governor extends pandemic restrictions

reviewjournal.com

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that he is extending Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 ‘pause’ through January 15th and also reinstating the state’s moratorium on most residential evictions.

NC: COVID-19 ‘fatigue’ leads North Carolina governor to balance restraint, restrictions

newsobserver.com

A modified stay-at-home order with a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s latest attempt to control the coronavirus’ spread in North Carolina as the state breaks records, often daily, for cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

NJ: New Jersey COVID-19 cases jumped in nearly every county after Thanksgiving

nj.com

In New Jersey, the predicted boost in coronavirus transmissions after Thanksgiving gatherings has begun. New cases were up 24.5% across the state, a striking increase after the new case rate appeared to plateau a week ago.   

TX: Texas ICU capacity at pandemic low

texastribune.org

Heading into another holiday season, Texas has the fewest number of available intensive care beds since the pandemic began. Intensive care units were full in at least 28 hospitals for the week ending Nov. 27, and more than 160 hospitals reported that less than 15% of their ICU beds are available.

RI: Rhode Island’s health department director tests positive for COVID-19 

providencejournal.com

The director of the Rhode Island Department of Health has tested positive for the coronavirus. The positive test means that Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and some of her senior leadership will have to self-quarantine. 

NH: Second New Hampshire State House leader contracts COVID, as lawmakers and staff seek testing

nhpr.org

One of the top-ranking Republicans in the New Hampshire House announced she had tested positive for the coronavirus as lawmakers and staff lined up to be tested for the virus in the wake of Republican House Speaker Dick Hinch’s death from COVID-19.

HI: More than 60 Hawaii prisoners test positive for COVID-19

hawaiinewsnow.com

Prison officials say 63 more inmates and six additional staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Halawa Correctional Facility, in what appears to be the third major outbreak in a Hawaii correctional center.

MO: Missouri governor, lawmakers brace for tighter budget

apnews.com

Republican Gov. Mike Parson and top Republican lawmakers predict Missouri will collect about $9.78 billion in revenue next fiscal year, which begins in July. That’s about $200 million less than they previously planned to collect.

ME: Maine public school enrollment drops amid pandemic                                                                                    

pressherald.com

Enrollment in Maine’s public schools dropped by more than 4% this year as the coronavirus pandemic drives more families to enroll in private school or to home-school their children. To date, the state has already seen a more than 40% increase in home-schooled students.

VA: Virginia made it easier to build solar facilities, prompting pushback

richmond.com

Solar farms, already on the rise in Virginia, are expected to proliferate in response to a state law passed this year that promises to phase out fossil fuels by 2050. But Virginians are pushing back at the local level against plans they say will bring an eyesore too close to home.

CO: Colorado looks to logging to help rebalance forests

apnews.com

Stunned by unprecedented megafires, Colorado is embracing mechanized tree-cutting in an effort to revive out-of-balance forests.

AZ: US Supreme Court asked to decertify Biden’s win in Arizona

apnews.com

Conservative lawyer Sidney Powell has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decertify Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. Powell also asked the justices to bar Biden’s electors from casting Electoral College votes on Monday.

WY: One-fourth of Wyoming’s incarcerated have contracted COVID-19

wyomingnews.com                                         

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 24.5% of Wyoming’s incarcerated population has contracted the virus at some point, though there have been no deaths from COVID-19 among those individuals, the state Department of Corrections director told lawmakers.

MN: One Minnesota county managed to limit COVID-19 transmissions

minnpost.com

A modest success story can be found in Olmsted County, Minnesota, where COVID-19 case rates are far below much of the state. Local officials say the community that’s home to the Mayo Clinic and a robust health care industry has largely followed guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

MA: Evictions are on the rise in parts of Massachusetts where people are most vulnerable

bostonglobe.com

In the seven weeks since Massachusetts housing courts reopened, new eviction filings have climbed quickly, despite a federal ban that still prevents many evictions from being finalized. 

TN: Tennessee schools close ahead of winter break as COVID-19 surges, staffing challenges continue

tennessean.com

Many Tennessee students are finishing the fall semester at home as schools close their doors as the coronavirus surges across the state. Many don't know when they might return to school in-person—or if they will at all.

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